Pioneering studies by molecular geneticist, Robert A. Waterland shed some light on how the foods that an about-to-be or newly-pregnant mother eats in the days and weeks before and around the time of conception, may affect the way genes function in her children, and consequently her children's health.
Waterland, funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, has examined subsistence farming villages in West Africa, tracking the epigenetic changes and linking them to the dramatic seasonal differences in the diets (both amount and types of foods) of women in the villages. His research not only confirms the vital importance of pre and peri-conception diet and supplementation habits, but sheds light on how the epigenetic mechanism actually works. If you’re not familiar with the term “epigenetics”, it simply means above and beyond genetics. For those who are interested in the actual mechanisms, they can impact, for example, the levels at which an everyday biochemical process, DNA methylation, occurs at regions of certain genes. DNA methylation is essential for cell development and for stabilizing cell function.
So epigenetic changes occur at the most fundamental cellular level and are exhibited across generations. While Waterland observes the negative genetic impact of dietary restriction (for example during the peak rainy season) his work provides yet more compelling incentives to get your diet into great shape before you conceive. Then back it up with robust supplementation to ensure those epigenetic effects are positive not negative ones!
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